Tag: Sports

Friday Flashback: The Best Job I Ever Had

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I have had many interesting jobs throughout my life.  I have been in the military, worked as a private investigator and my current job as a litigation technology specialist but there was one job experience I will never forget.

I couldn’t believe it when I received the rejection letter for the job I had applied for.  I just knew I was the right fit for the job when I saw the ad in the Macon Telegraph Newspaper for a part-time clerk for the Sports Department.  I couldn’t believe they weren’t even going to interview me for the job.  Instead of tossing the rejection letter, I did something rather unorthodox – I wrote them back and told them it was a mistake for them not to hire me.  I would find out later that this impressed the Assistant Sports Editor so much that he called me for an interview.  I was hired for the position.

I didn’t start out doing the exciting stuff – far from it.  In fact, it was rather boring in the beginning.  I worked my shift taking phone calls from coaches and stat people on their baseball, softball, golf and whatever sports was being played in the spring.  I would take the information and type it into their antiquated computer system.  It was some form of a Macintosh system which was quite the learning curve for me. I was also trained to do the scoreboard section of the newspaper.  This involved me making some important decisions on what to cut or what to add to fill in the space that was available in the sports section of the newspaper.  I would do my best to measure the section and then send it downstairs where they would print it out and position it.  Before the deadline of each edition, I went downstairs and told the press operators what to cut and how to fit the scoreboard in.  I’m sure they probably do that a lot different now.

Remember this was a part-time job for me.  I was already working a full-time job at the time and I worked three nights a week at the newspaper.  My shift would run anywhere from 6 p.m. to Midnight including some weekends as well.  During the week I would go straight from work to the newspaper.  It was a hectic schedule at times and, although I liked getting paid, I enjoyed what I was doing.

The first five months breezed by and I thought I had a handle on the job until the first night of high school football hit the sports department.  I was warned but hardly prepared for the chaos which occurred in the newsroom on a Friday night in the fall.  It was madness.  Phones were ringing off the hook.  People were scampering everywhere.  Stress levels were on DEFCON status.  It was quite an experience which has caused others to quit with little or no notice.  The phone calls were called in at a frantic pace.  It was just for the scores of the games but statistics and short details of each contest.  One of the things that was required was to get the stats for BOTH teams in a game.  At times, most people calling in where giving the stats just for their team.  I got a little experience writing a short paragraph on a few games from the reports that came in.  One of my hidden talents which often amazed folks in the newsroom was that I knew the mascots for every public school sports team in the state of Georgia.  My memory isn’t as good now but back then I could tell you every nickname from the Villa Rica Wildcats to the Johnson Atom Smashers.  I loved being involved with sports.

Writing those short blurbs got something started inside of me.  I soon felt the desire to do more.  I approached the Sports Editor one day about letting me cover a sports event and write about it.  He obviously thought I could do it because one day he gave me an assignment to cover an American Legion baseball game in Cochran, Georgia.  It wasn’t the major leagues or even the minor leagues but I didn’t care.  It was a start.  In the game I wrote that Post 3 dented the scoreboard – literally – when Mark Johnson hit a homerun off the outfield scoreboard.  Johnson would later be drafted by the Chicago White Sox.  The team also had other future major league players such as John Rocker and Russ Branyan.  It started another phase for me in the job for me and I loved it. You can’t imagine the thrill of seeing your name in the byline of a sports article.  The Sports Editor eventually promoted me to another part-time position which allowed me to cover more sporting events.  I wasn’t the best writer but I learned a lot about it and enjoyed covering the games.

Here were a few of the experiences that come to mind:

  • Spending an entire Saturday covering the midget football Super Bowl games.
  • Covering four high school football games in three days at one stadium.  When the public address announcer failed to show for one of the games, I decided to give it a try.  I have never done that again.
  • Covering the Flag City Shootout which was one of the world’s largest softball tournaments at the time.
  • Being forced to climb on the roof of the press box at West Laurens High School to cover a high school football playoff game.
  • Covering the first game played when Middle Georgia College resurrected their football program again.
  • Witnessing sports writers from Nassau, New York get kicked out of the press box at Georgia Military College for criticizing the officiating at a junior college football game.
  • Packed like a sardine in small private school gyms during holiday basketball tournaments.
  • The time I had my story finished and scrambling to change it when the losing team came back to win.
  • Locking my keys in the car when at a private school football game and an FBI agent helping me get it unlocked.
  • The girls’ basketball coach who wanted to read what I was going to write and got mad at me when I wouldn’t let her.  Sorry but her team stunk so it was a challenge to write a positive article anyway.
  • Using that darn Tandy Radio Shack portable computer.
  • Driving all over Gray, Georgia looking for a phone line to send my story back to the newsroom.
  • Wade Moore – the best stat man ever.
  • Learning how to do scoring in baseball.  I could have done better with college level algebra.  Believe it or not, the easiest sport for me was basketball.
  • My first ever trip to Sanford Stadium and meeting the legendary Larry Munson.
  • My first experience writing a story on an Atlanta Falcons game.
  • Going into the Falcons’ locker room to interview players.
  • Doing my best to keep from being one of those sports writers asking dumb questions.
  • Standing at the locker for Andre Rison with other reporters waiting to interview him and being told that he had ducked out to avoid being interviewed.

I was also given the opportunity to write sports columns which also produced my first “hate mail” when I was critical of the United States hosting the World Cup and how boring soccer was to Americans at the time.   At least they were reading it right?

I had never dreamed that I would want to be any kind of writer but being a sports writer lit the fuse inside.  I can assure you that it isn’t as glamorous as you might think.  It is a LOT of work and very stressful but I loved it.

So why didn’t I do this job full-time?

I tried.  When openings came up in the sports department I applied but was turned away for various reasons.  One time I was told that although I was talented, the newspaper wanted to hire a minority for the position.  Yeah, that one threw me a curve ball.  Another time I was told I just didn’t have enough daily experience although, at the time, I was doing more work than some others.  I also assumed that the absence of a college degree in journalism hurt my chances as well but sometimes you just don’t know what you want to do until you are doing it.  That’s kinda how this happened for me.

I decided to leave the Macon Telegraph but it wasn’t because I was never hired for a full-time position.  Actually, I was promoted at my full-time job and I needed to cut back on the part-time work.  I attempted to work for a newspaper closer to where I lived at the time in Warner Robins, Georgia but the place was badly mismanaged and headed toward going out of business anyway so my time there was very short.

At some point later a new newspaper was launched in the county and I went to work with the sports editor there.  I covered a lot of high school football and basketball in our county which was different than coverage in the larger Middle Georgia region.  I had some good relationships with most of the coaches.  I got to know the coaches at Warner Robins, Westfield, Perry, Northside and Houston County.  I even accompanied one of the coaches and his girls’ basketball team on their trip to play in the state championship game.  I had hoped for a better outcome but unfortunately I had to write a different story.  Covering that girls basketball team that season was magical and something I have never forgotten.

This part-time job which started out as being a “stringer” led to many other writing opportunities for me.  Although I have had some success with writing for magazines and self-publishing a few books, I think back to those days in the sports department at the Macon Telegraph.  I will be honest with you and admit that I am tempted when I see an ad for a part-time sports writer now, especially when football season approaches.  I won’t say that I won’t come out of retirement and do it again but it is not very likely that I will.

Looking back on it now, I am glad I was never hired for a full-time position.  It all worked out the way it should and I have had success with my current job but I still feel that twinge on Friday nights in the fall.

 

 

 

 

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It’s Okay To Breathe Now

Bored-sports-fanSome time after 9 p.m. last night I was able to breathe again.   When Kevin Fiala scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime period to give the Nashville Predators a 5-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets, I was able to breathe again.  The Predators were able to even their best-of-seven series in the Western Conference semifinals.

Again, I ask myself why I put myself through this.

I have done this for as long as I have followed sports.  I remember the early 1990s when I went through something similar like this with the Atlanta Braves.  Late nights.  Close games.  Dramatic finishes.  They never made it easy.

It’s a lot of work watching these games.  It seems that the teams I pull for never make it easy.

It’s fun when you win.   When you lose, not so much.  And all this for what?   I don’t know really.  It’s just a hobby.  I don’t play hockey.  I’m not on the team.  It changes nothing in my life.  I still had to get up and go to work today.

It’s just entertainment.  That’s it.  Nothing else.  A game played by a team of players who aren’t even from here.  They are from Finland, Sweden, Russia and even the U.S. players on the team aren’t from Nashville.  It’s kinda strange when you think about it that way.

I can tell you that for almost 3 hours last night I had to remind myself when it was okay to breathe.  Every shot attempt and every save had me on edge.

On Friday the Nashville Mayor proclaimed it “Predators Pride Day” and for the first time I wore my Predators’ jersey to work.  To my surprise I did not see another person in the building or around the block wearing any Predators’ gear.  You can see Bridgestone Arena from my office building.  I was a bit surprised about that.

Then the team lost 4-1 that night.  The Predators had a huge shot attempt number but only got one in for a score.  Winnipeg didn’t have many chances and they just seemed to flip it in with ease.  The agony of defeat.

Yeah, Winnipeg.  That’s not really a well-known North American city yet this Winnipeg is making my life miserable.  For hockey folks, Winnipeg originated as the Atlanta Thrashers.  When the Thrashers failed to establish hockey in Atlanta for the second time, they moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada.

When I first started watching hockey, it was the Atlanta Flames and later I followed the New York Islanders during their glory years.  Since moving to Nashville, I can say that I am a fully converted Nashville Predators’ fan.  Even my wife – who had never been to a hockey game – is a fan now.  You should hear her coaching the team during the game.  She’s right on it too.

Another annoyance with watching the games now is that we are stuck with the NBC announcers.  I really wish we could just mute their voices and listen to the game without them.  Their color commentary person is stating the obvious and really has nothing to add to the game.  She has repeatedly referred to how big the Winnipeg Jets are.  Okay, we get it.  Move on.  No need to state that observation in every game.  They aren’t going to change in height or size so let’s move on.  Better yet, say nothing.  I’m good with that.  No, it’s not our homey broadcasters and I get that but they could say a lot less in my opinion.

So I come back to why do I put myself through this?  I don’t know.  Life has enough drama right?

Even if the Nashville Predators win the title what, in my life, will it change?   Georgia lost to Alabama in College Football National Championship Game in January.  Did that change anything?  No.   The Falcons suffered the most humiliating loss in Super Bowl history to New England two years ago which changed nothing.  It’s like a TV series.  It’s entertainment.  That’s it.

I tell myself this but on Tuesday night I will be reminding myself when to breathe yet again.

 

The Agony of Defeat

I didn’t play a single play or coach in the game yet I sit here an hour after listening to my team lose the state championship game. It wasn’t even close.

I’m very familiar with this hollow feeling having experienced this same feeling in June when the Nashville Predators lost the Stanley Cup and before that in February when the Atlanta Falcons collapsed in the Super Bowl. That one nearly ended my sports life.

I will be okay tomorrow. I will move on. Right now it stinks.

Yes, my football team had an amazing season. If you had told me they would even be playing in the state championship game I wouldn’t have believed you. It was a good season. I will appreciate that more later but I’m not so much into reflection right now.

Life will go on. It’s just sports right? Why do I get so caught up in it? I don’t know. That’s just how I am. It’s the roller coaster ride I live.

None of this really matters in the grand scheme of things of my life. My life is not changed by it even if my team had won. So, I need to shake it off and finish my Christmas shopping.

I won’t have much time to recover from my sports blues with Georgia playing in the college football playoff, watching to see how the Titans finish the NFL season as well as a peek or two at how the Falcons finish. I’m inviting more misery aren’t I?

I need to write another football book with a happy ending. It seems fiction is the only way I’m going to experience the thrill of victory anytime soon on my sports rollercoaster.

Weeeeeeeeeeee!

Why Does Sports Matter So Much?

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It has been two days since the Atlanta Falcons’ heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI.   I am still trying to emotionally recover from it.

Yeah, I know how silly that sounds.  It’s “just” a dumb game right?   It’s “just” sports.  I have repeated that to myself a lot since Sunday.

Why should it bother me this much?   I don’t play for the Falcons.  I have absolutely no interaction with any of the players except for a tweet response from Atlanta Falcons’ Tight End Austin Hooper.  What happened on Sunday doesn’t have any affect on my life or my job in any way.

So what is my problem?

Not only am I climbing out of my funk but I am also mad at myself for being this way.  Why should any of this matter?

Psychologists say that rooting for a sports team provides us a sense of belonging.  Sports offers an escape from the daily grind of work and life.  It bolsters our self-esteem and creates a sense of pride.  We tend to love the distraction from our everyday lives and like to identify with something bigger than ourselves.

Okay, it sounds like I need a psychiatrist.

I have asked myself the same question over the last two days:  “What does sports matter this much to me?”

I don’t really know the answer.  I have always been this way.

My first memory of how I started this psychological path was with high school football.  The first sports game I ever attended was a high school football game.  It was an exciting game and I have been hooked since then.  I guess it was a way of escape for me – to leave reality for a few minutes and try to be a part of the team I was supporting.  I even tried to play football in high school but quickly realized that I couldn’t overcome my physical limitations.  So, that left me with the only option of supporting my teams in being a fan.

I once had season tickets for the local high school football team where I lived and I never attended the school and never had anyone playing yet I was totally involved as if I did.   Even now on Friday nights during the fall, I still listen to Georgia high school football games on the Internet and keep track of what’s going on even though I am living in Tennessee.

Since the beginning, my fan behavior expanded from high school football to other sports.  I used to follow basketball but after I spent several seasons covering high school basketball games for local newspapers, I was done with basketball after that.  I don’t follow high school, college or professional.  I might watch an occasional game but I never keep up with how any of the teams are doing.

So why am I taking the Falcons’ loss so hard?

I started following the Falcons in 1977 when they were starting to be a good team for the first time in their history and made the playoffs in 1978.  Then there was that “heartbreaking” loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980 playoffs which has now been replaced with Sunday’s loss to New England.   I guess it’s like a movie, you follow the story of each season.  The good and the bad.  Then when you reach the place of an ultimate accomplishment, you feel as if you have done it.  Now, that sounds weird when I see it on the screen.   What the Falcons do on the field doesn’t reward me with more salary at work and I don’t get a trophy to put on display.

I don’t even live in Atlanta or in the State of Georgia anymore.   I have even added teams in Nashville to my fan following.   So now I have been emotionally involved in the Titans and the Predators.  Don’t even get me started on the Predators and last year’s playoffs.

After Sunday, I have to ask myself why I need something else to stress me out?  Why add these sports dramas to my life?  They are supposed to be an escape – not added stress.

I’m taking a break from sports.  I’m not watching the Predators or anything else for a while.  I don’t know how long but I just need a break.  Somehow my personality just gets way too involved and emotional about it.

If it’s true that we use sports as an “escape” from our lives, that may have been the case for the first 46 years of my life, but it isn’t now.   I don’t need an escape or attach myself to a sports team for some kind of self-esteem issues.   My life is good and my self-esteem is in pretty good condition these days.

I do love sports.  I guess that part of me will never change.  Had things been different, I may have had a permanent career in sports writing.   I will still write in my blog about sports, but for now, I just need to back it down.